Xavi’s undefeated start at Barcelona will be tested on Saturday, when he takes his side to face Villarreal in La Liga.
An unspectacular 1-0 win over Espanyol in the derby last weekend was a good start for the icon, who then watched his team draw 0-0 with Benfica in the Champions League on Tuesday, leaving their fate in their own hands ahead of a trip to Bayern Munich in Matchday 6.
While there remain concerns that Memphis Depay is not the man to fire Barca to glory, for the moment the Dutchman remains their best bet in the No.9 role. Martin Braithwaite remains a long-term injury doubt while there is no guarantee that Sergio Aguero will even play again after a recent heart scare.
To make matters worse, winger Ansu Fati remains on the sidelines while creative midfielder Pedri will not be able to make his return any time soon.
Xavi admitted that using Ousmane Dembele on Tuesday for 25 minutes off the bench was “a risk”, hinting that the France international will not be ready to start against Villarreal. Even if he is, he will surely be limited in his minutes.
Yusuf Demir and Gavi could be used in support of Memphis.
Meanwhile, the midfield foundations are being firmly laid around Sergi Busquets and Frenkie de Jong during the period of Pedri’s absence. Nico Gonzalez could also feature.
Barca used a three-man defence in midweek, though this system may need re-evaluated if Ronald Araujo is not fit. Sergi Roberto is also a doubt in the rearguard, while Dani Alves will not be eligible to make his second debut for the club until January.
Sergino Dest and Jordi Alba could, then, flank Gerard Pique and Eric Garcia, while Marc-Andre ter Stegen will, of course, keep goal for the Catalans.
Villarreal are likely to be handicapped with the absence of ace striker Gerard Moreno, whole Paco Alcacer is also a doubt.